The Best Things Come in Pairs

They had had a few.

Well, okay, more than a few.

Pamela Hudson was better at holding her liquor than her date, a Calafan named Treve. They were now back at the apartment she had just started renting, on his planet, Lafa II.

"We have been going on, er, out," she said, her words just a tiny bit slurred, "for over a year now."

"Yes," he said, "and I never saw your apartment – or anywhere you ever lived – until now."

"Right."

There was an old-fashioned deck of cards on the coffee table. "What are these?" he asked, picking up the pack and turning it over in his hands. The alcohol was working, and life was feeling like it was being lived underwater, as if he were suddenly a Xindi Aquatic.

"Huh?"

"These, uh, things."

"Oh! Those are playing cards. You don't have playing cards?" Pamela rummaged around in her refrigeration unit and decided that the unopened bottle of Chardonnay was probably a bad idea. She took out a carafe of orange juice and somewhat sloppily poured them each a glass.

"What do you do with them?" Treve asked, taking a glass from her. "You know, I cannot get used to the fact that your human fruits only taste one, uh, one way."

"Wha–?"

"It doesn't change, like, like olowa does. Orange is just orange. Apple is just apple."

"Sorry our fruits don't m-measure up to your standards." She kissed him.

"Now, about these cards," Treve said, eluding her grasp for the moment. He liked her. He really, really, liked her. And he had been respectful and had moved slowly as she had wrapped up her affairs at the Charon Medical Center and moved to the Lafa System. She had said it was to be near her elderly uncle, one of the few members of her family she truly loved. Treve liked to think that maybe it was, at least in some small way, to be near him as well. At least, that was what he hoped for more than anything.

"Uh, what about 'em?"

"How do you, how do you play? There's nothing, elec-, uh, elec-, uh, nothing flashing and moving and, uh, stuff."

"Oh, uh, poker. We could play poker." Behind her, the wall chronometer showed the date – July the twelfth of 2163.

"What is that?"

"I deal, uh, five, uh, cards to us. Here, open up the pack and look."

He did as requested. "They've got your human numbers on them."

"Yeah, but, uh, see there's pictures of, uh, hearts and spades and diamonds and uh, these are clovers. I think. I forget. Just count them up, see?"

"Right, but, uh, here," he showed her some face cards. "You've got the High Priestess, the uh, the First Minister and uh, the First Minister's son, such as, uh, myself?"

"Uh, sure. But those are really a Queen, a King and a Jack, Treve."

"Isn't Jack a human name?"

"Uh, yeah. It's also called a Knave."

"Huh. So I am the Knave, I suppose. And then what happens after we get five cards?"

"Well, you, uh, you send back between one and uh, three and the dealer gives you new ones."

"You just look around and find me new cards?"

"I deal them so it's uh, it's random." She slurped her juice loudly. "Then uh, whoever has higher cards or uh, matches like pairs, those are worth more than just, just single ones."

"So it's better to-, uh, together?"

"Right," she said. She dealt them each a hand. "Now, uh, you, uh, you bet."

"Bet? What would I wager with?"

"Clothes." She giggled.

"Oh, really?" He gave her two cards back and she dealt him two new ones. Then she exchanged three for herself. "Okay, now, show me what you've got."

He had a pair of fours. "Oh and here's a High Priestess and a ten of those clovers and this other one is a red eight."

She lay down her hand. Three aces.

"So, who won?" he asked, still a bit tipsy.

"You," she said and, as he sat there, astonished, she took off her top.